Vance Worley Shows Us Scouts Can’t Predict Everything

As Vance Worley dominates the Mets on an otherwise quiet Thursday night, one cannot help but look at his stats in amazement: 8-1, 2.33 ERA, 74 K, 31 BB, and a 1.139 WHIP. In fact, as I type this he has just struck out his 9th Met on the night, in only the 7th inning. True, the Mets are beaten and battered at this point in the season, but you cannot deny that “The Vanimal”, as he has been called lately, has proven to be more than the scouts ever predicted.

When the Phillies drafted him in the 3rd Round of the 2008 Draft, he was noted for his inconsistencies. “His slider tended to be flat,” some scouts said. “His fastball is nothing special,” said others.

He had spent four long years at Long Beach State learning and progressing. Yet, he ran deep counts and his extended stats weren’t overly impressive. He projected out to be a power bullpen arm, at best.

Despite the low expectations Worley, who is part Chinese, relied on his background, using his mother’s cultural mantra of hard work in order to develop different pitches. His efforts focused on improving his changeup and curveball, and in time earned him a promotion to Double-A. Once again, scouts continued to discount his peripheral stats that they felt weren’t up to par. Once again, Worley’s attitude and work ethic allowed him to compensate and then overcome that adversity.

Many players have been blessed with great abilities, only to see those abilities robbed by poor attitudes, poor decision making, or some other personal demons. Guys like Jose Canseco, Albert Belle, and Dwight Gooden.

Guys like Worley turn above-average talent into something more through the right attitude and hard work.

Despite all of that, The Hardball Times still stated, “There isn’t much upside to work with, but Worley likes to attack the strike zone with his average arsenal and knows how to keep the ball low and the hitters off balance.”

In fact, on the traditional 20-80 scale used by scouts (a largely idiotic concept, in my opinion) Worley ranked a 50 in most categories. For those unfamiliar with the scale and what each number translates to, a 50 is league average. Even John Sickels – who despite being wrong time and time again about prospects is allowed to keep his job – dropped Worley altogether prior to the 2010 season from his Phillies prospects lists. Worley would make his MLB debut that season, striking out two in an inning of relief work against Colorado.

When Worley was first recalled in 2011, after Joe Blanton’s injury, he dominated, allowing only 2 ER in his first 16 IP. He ran into a bit of a jam next, allowing 8 ER over 8 IP versus the Reds and Mets. Experts and scouts already were stating that the batters had adjusted to him, but Worley would have the last laugh. He would turn around and beat Seattle, Oakland, and then Boston to kick off a string of five consecutive victories.

At this point, others started to take notice. Yet, some of the Rotographs (hacks) writers still seemed to insist that this merely was a fluke.

Eno Sarris stated that his xFIP (a stat so complicated with so many variables, one wonders if they did it just to spout it off to sound superior) and his changeup was poor due to linear weights. For the record, his changeup is thrown when not expected – which makes it a great pitch. Personally I think he did it for the kitsch line, “Don’t get bit by the Vanimal!” …. ugh. Baseball writers have gone downhill.

Mike Axisa, also of Rotographs (math guys do not make for good writers), threw out a stat I had never heard of called ulBB, and like his partner stated, HR/FB and the fact that his home park is HR-friendly. Now, there is a stat I do get behind, but ballpark factors depend as much on the players as it does the park. Sorry, but 10 feet of fence either backward or forward won’t kill too many home runs, otherwise we’d only be talking about how Babe Ruth was only very good, not great, at that short RF porch.

Yet, Worley keep flexing the mohawk, dancing out of danger by shutting the door when runners reach base. Maybe the Vanimal is just as bad as he WANTS to be. Go Wild Thing!

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